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Checklist: Getting Started with Digital Marketing for SMEs

Checklist: Getting Started with Digital Marketing for SMEs

Although you are going to have to make a few key decisions which are going to affect your steps, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to digital marketing for SMEs, read (and tick through) this ten-item-checklist to make sure you are not missing any key component in your SME digital marketing plan.

1. Qualify and quantify your goals

One finger in green

Time to get started with a project.  Don’t just dive into it, but rather spend the time to figure out exactly what you want to achieve.  The latest and coolest tools sound exciting, but you will need to make sure they are appropriate for your business and consistent with your digital marketing plan. Invest the time upfront to clearly articulate your goals, to connect them to the company overall strategy and goals, and to quantify them.  

These steps will allow you to:

  1. Get your team to understand better what you want to achieve and why this is meaningful (remember, everyone likes to see the impact that they can have on the business… make the connection easy for everyone to see);
  2. Measure the impact afterwards and determine if it was a successful project (or not). 

Do you think that you won't need digital marketing because you are an SME selling in a B2B model? Think again, and check out our article about why B2B SMEs need digital marketing.

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2. Look at the details of the solution that fits your needs

Two fingers in green

Whether this means that you are going to do a proof-of-concept (hard to do with digital marketing platforms, but you can get access to sandbox environment), a pilot, or that you are going to spend days in demos where you get your software vendors to walk you through how you are exactly going to do something. These are all good options to see the solution at work at get a good feeling for it. It’s the best way to align expectations on your needs vs. how a given solution fits them.

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3. Decide on in-house vs external

Three fingers in green

Have a good and honest look at your capabilities and skills. 

  1. Which are the digital marketing plan related things that you can do on your own (tip: the asset inventory is a good start)?
  2. What are the gaps between what you need (skillsets) and what you can do in-house? What are those additional skills that are missing on your team?
  3. Is there a significant difference between the implementation phase and the ongoing work needed for the new digital marketing tool(s) you are implementing

You might conclude that you will do everything on your own, that you will give everything out to partners, or that you will use partners to implement and get up to speed and then take over the project on your own. The latter is the most popular model, but it needs to be explicitly communicated to the partner that you work with, so that the right amount of training and handover is factored into the project.  Otherwise, you may also end up in another very common situation:  a great tool is implemented and never used.

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4. Select a partner/consultant and software vendor(s)

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If you have decided to use a partner or consultant, here are our top-3 tips on partner selection:

  1. Engage a consultant/partner before selecting a software vendor.  This is the opposite of what usually happens in larger environment, but SMEs are looking for strong advisor, and the partner is that advisor, not the software vendors.  A good partner will advise you on the right vendor for your business and will help you to structure a sound selection process.
  2. Look at partners with expertise on the specific solution, and able to work across multiple vendors (remember, you haven’t chosen a software vendor yet). 
  3. Assess the partner’s ability to understand your business needs (not necessarily your industry, but rather the business challenge you are facing).  The ability to quickly develop a good understanding of your needs is the first step in the direction of building a long-lasting relationship.

Typically, as the leader of an SME, you are looking for a strong advisor, and the partner of this digital marketing program should be that advisor. You are not just looking for a transactional relationship, you want to find someone that can build a long-lasting relationship.

Regardless of the decision of using a partner, you will need to select one or more software vendors. Here is a single tip:  have fun with this process. If a vendor doesn’t engage, move to the next, they are likely a bad fit for you (and they definitely think that you are a bad fit for them). There are plenty to choose from; we made a list of all the marketing automation solutions, and we counted 107 of them!

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5. Adjust your organisation

Five fingers in green

Most likely you are implementing a new marketing tool because you want to change and improve on how you are doing something.  This change has an organisational impact. 

Ask your partner how other companies have adjusted their organizations to work most efficiently with the new tools… whether there is a better organizational structure or there are specific skills to update in your team—and if the vendor(s) selected can help you with training.  Depending on what you are trying to achieve, there may be more than a change in organization structure and some skill upgrades (here is a post by Adobe on this:  To Be An Experience Business Requires Organizational And Cultural Shifts).  

Don’t let the organizational part of the project be an afterthought, in the same way that you are thinking from the beginning about who is going to be your partner and which software vendor(s) you are going to use, you need to address the organisational challenge upfront.     

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6. Set a budget

Set a budget

Nothing surprising here… other than the fact that this is step #6.  Don’t start here!  

It’s crucial to think through the goals and the other prior five items before getting here.  Sure, you can get budget quotes much earlier than this point, to see if some software vendor(s) are a complete misfit, but other than that no need to spend time on detailed budget planning up to this point.

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7. Have a clear engagement model externally

Seven fingers in green

Ask this from your partner!  Most of them will have a slide in one of the earlier presentations showing you how they map their people to yours and what are the channels for these mappings (whether people are going to meet in steering committees every 15 days, or are working shoulder-to-shoulder daily).  If the partner is not volunteering this info, ask for it explicitly. 

Knowing this information, and making sure that if fits your expectations, is a key factor to the project’s success.  For example, if the partner implementation team is in India, and will do 100% of the work remotely, this would be important to know.

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8. ….and set governance internally

set governance internally

In the same way that you would be asking a partner to give you their engagement model, you have to define an internal governance.  

  • If you are giving this project to someone on your team, agree with them on the governance;
  • If leading it, set the governance structure and clearly communicate it with everyone involved;  
  • The project is larger in scale, or cuts across multiple departments (for example, Marketing, Sales, and Support, to follow the customer journey from the beginning to the end)?  You should consider a full PMO. Here is an interesting article from on this:  What is a project management office (PMO) and do you need one? 

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9. Measure success (and learn from whatever didn’t go well)

Nine fingers in green

The project doesn’t end when the implementation is over.  Although the software vendor(s) may stop working with you directly, you will want to continue to track the performance metrics of the projects across a longer timeline, making sure that you achieve your goals.  

Your partner should have some skin in the game here, when possible.  Meeting or exceeding the timeline set, within the budget given to the partner is just a start.  You are looking to confirm that you are achieving all goals, even the secondary ones, and those which required a bit longer timeframe.

Your partner should have some skin in the game here, when possible. Look for contract structure that reflect this (for example, with success fees).

If you are not achieving them, you should have corrective actions to try to get back on course and achieve those goals, or at the very least you should have a good way to share internally what went wrong and learn from this.  Whether the goals were set wrongly, the partner or vendor selection wasn’t right, or something else changed in the middle of the project, you should know why and there should be a shared understanding of this.

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10. Follow digital trends

Ten fingers in green

Finally, keep up with digital marketing trends!  These change quickly.... martech is a relatively fluid domain, even by technology standards.

To help with this, each week, we publish a collection of digital trends at  Sign up to our weekly and stay up to date!  Trends and news will help you get some ideas and figure out some quick wins for your business, as well as having a better understanding of what your digital and digital marketing longer term goals should be.

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Good luck with your digital marketing project! Hopefully this ten-step-checklist helps you! Check out our post about how to identify the right marketing solution for you to get started.

And if you are looking for more info about digital marketing you can contact us here or have look at our digital marketing services and plans below.

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